Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Baptists


We make our decisions. And then our decisions turn around and make us.

F. W. Boreham, Baptist preacher, born in England in 1871, died in Australia in 1959.

Double-decker church planting

I grew up in a town I shall call Seagull, Saskatchewan. This is a fictional name, as are all the other names given in this account, but the events are true to life as best as my memory serves. Like all other prairie towns, there were a number of tall wooden grain elevators lining the railway tracks in Seagull. As soon as you got out of town you could see the elevators of the next town.

Yet the land was not as flat as it appeared from the highway, it was broken by ravines and coulees which eventually led into the Grand Valley River. Ravines and coulees, we tended to use those words interchangeably. I guess a coulee leads into a ravine, which eventually leads into a river. In spring, these valleys funnelled water from the melting snow into the river, the rest of the year they were dry. The river valley was indeed grand — deep and a mile wide; the river itself was a narrow stream tracing a sinuous path along the floor of the valley.

There were three churches in Seagull, none of which could be considered evangelical. Some folks wished for something more. When I was twelve a Baptist evangelist from the USA came to town and held a week of meetings in the Legion Hall. This caused quite a stir, some made fun, some were curious, some were searching and appeared to find what they were looking for.

At the end of the week, it was clear that there were enough committed people to establish a church. There was an empty country schoolhouse available, they bought it, moved it into Seagull and made it into a church. They called it the Seagull Baptist Church and hired a young Bible School graduate named Larry McLeod as their pastor.

They began as an unaffiliated congregation and happily worshipped together in Christian fellowship for several years. Some members advanced the thought that there would be benefits in affiliating with a denomination and it seemed that the majority were persuaded that this was the way to go. Thus, after seven years of independence they affiliated with one of the Baptist denominations. A hitch developed, though, when it was found that pastor McLeod and the denomination were not altogether in harmony. He was replaced by someone more acceptable to the denomination.

Feelings were ruffled, some members withdrew from the Baptist church and asked Pastor McLeod to stay on as their pastor. More evangelistic meetings were held, a new congregations was formed, and a rural church that had not been used for some years was moved into town. This was the beginning of the Seagull Gospel Church. Now Seagull had five churches, enough to satisfy most everyone you would think. But could they all afford to support a preacher?

The Baptist church was the first to go, closing their doors 13 years after they began, 6 years after the split. The cost of supporting a minister was just too much for those who were left. The Gospel church struggled on four more years, then voted to amalgamate with a congregation in a town twenty miles away so that together they could afford to support Pastor McLeod. The evangelical witness in Seagull lasted a total of 17 years.

The challenge of Islam

[This post is my translation of a portion of Robert Dubarry’s commentary on the book of Revelation. I bought this book many years ago from a Montréal bookstore. It is undated, but I believe it was written about sixty years ago. M. Dubarry was a French Baptist pastor; I can find next to nothing about him on the internet, but I did come across one mention of an article on the history of the Baptists in France that he wrote in 1912. The following passage is part of his commentary on Revelation 9:1-12.]

The monstrous union of secular power with fallen Christianity since the time of Constantine had assured the domination of paganism disguised as the gospel. Savage doctrinal battles, the domineering and dissolute spirit of the clergy, absurd notions and idolatrous practices, all these things had transformed the holy and blessed piety brought by Jesus into a scandalous religion. Mohammed, faced with such a spectacle and priding himself on never having wanted to learn to read and write, was incapable of making contact with the revelation of true Christianity. Many who have studied his life are persuaded that if he had first known Jesus Christ by other means than these degenerate representatives, he would not have gone further in seeking an ideal alternative to the lamentable state of his epoch and his milieu.

He was born in 571 at Mecca in the desert of Arabia and experienced the harshness of life, yet was endowed with remarkable intelligence despite a mental imbalance probably due to epilepsy. Having an iron will and aware that there must exist a moral ideal superior to that of his time, yet devoid of scruples, he developed the ambition to reform the thinking of his people, which was at that time half pagan, half Christian.

He offered more than paganism by getting rid of the notion of many gods, he brought more than degenerate Christianity by reviving certain elementary principles of order, wisdom, morality, righteousness and piety, sadly lost from the view of the false disciples of Jesus Christ.

But he gave infinitely less than apostolic Christianity, by denying the Trinity, in ignoring redemption, in putting aside true spirituality and opening new avenues for the carnal nature of man through earthly advantages and by heavenly promises entirely contrary to the spirit of the gospel.

Mohamed has sometimes been considered as being in many ways an extremist of oriental Christianity. However that may be, over an immense territory and for more than a thousand years, Islam has become the most insurmountable obstacle ever encountered by the gospel. The simplicity of its doctrine and practices has gained the allegiance of many hearts. Instinctively moulded to man’s natural tendencies, it requires an insignificant minimum of sacrifice for a maximum of privileges. As a substitute for evangelical Christianity, the Enemy could not have done better. The religion of the least effort, Islam has immobilised the thinking, morality and spiritual aspirations of its followers to such an extent that those that it has gained from paganism are too satisfied by this easy gain to imagine that greater spiritual progress might be possible, or even desirable.

It would be inconceivable that in a prophecy of “things which must soon come to pass” there would be no mention of such a great upheaval, involving not only the province of the seven churches of Asia but the whole Orient and even our own nation. For we must not forget that in the eighth century all the south of France was ruled by the Crescent of Mohamed, as was all of Spain until the eleventh century. The charred stones at Nîmes remind us that after seventeen years of Saracen occupation this improvised fortress was liberated by Charles Martel in 737. Islam remains in our day the most difficult missionary problem of all, and for civilized nations the most troubling foreign problem in the political, social, cultural and moral areas.

English Christianity – Part 4

John Smyth, a minister of the Church of England, was dismissed as a preacher of that church in 1602. He continued to preach without a license, becoming the spiritual leader of a number of like-minded people from Lincolnshire and adjoining areas of Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. For a time these people continued as members of their local parish churches, also meeting privately among themselves. But a conviction developed that the Church of England was not a true church at all. Late in 1606 or early 1607 this group covenanted together to form a true church, pledging themselves to walk in all the ways of the Lord known to them and that would be made known to them. By this step they moved from Puritanism, essentially a faction within the state church, to Separatism, renouncing the very concept of a state church. This little congregation contained at least 4 or 5 others who had formerly been ministers in the Church of England.

This move soon brought harassment by the authorities. In the spring of 1608 the entire congregation fled to Amsterdam in Holland. Some had been wealthy in England, but had to leave much behind and lost title to their properties. In Amsterdam they were relatively poor people, living in the wealthiest city in the world, and unable to understand the language of the land. At some point in the winter of 1608-09 John Smyth renounced the baptism he had received as an infant in the Church of England, baptized himself and then baptized all those in the congregation who were united with him in desiring believer’s baptism. Part of the congregation, led by John Robinson, did not accept this innovation and in spring they left Amsterdam for Leyden.

John Smyth himself soon came to regret his action. He had believed that the Church of God had ceased to exist on the earth. But as he and his congregation began to learn the Dutch language they became acquainted with the Waterlander Mennonite congregation in Amsterdam and realized that here was the Church of God. Early in 1610 they wrote to the Mennonites that they”now admit their error and repent of it, that is, that they began to baptize themselves contrary to the order instituted by Christ; and . . . henceforth desire to unite with the true church of Christ as quickly as possible.”

At this time a group of 8 or 10 withdrew from John Smyth’s congregation. The leader of this group was Thomas Helwys. He accused John Smyth of numerous doctrinal errors. Helwys rejected the idea that there was such a thing as a true church and that it was necessary for true believers to receive baptism and ordination from this church. Helwys also rejected the Mennonite teaching regarding the incarnation, insisting that Jesus received His flesh from the virgin Mary. Thirdly, he rejected the Mennonite teaching on the separation of church and state. On all these points John Smyth and his congregation were in full unity with the Mennonites.

Helwys and his followers returned to England and established the first Baptist church. Many Baptist historians attempt to prove the Baptists to be an offshoot of the Mennonites, by way of John Smyth, in order to show a lineage of the Baptist church back to Apostolic times. In actual fact the first Baptists emphatically rejected both the Mennonite faith and the whole idea of a lineage. There was a division in 1638, with one group of Baptists introducing the Calvinist doctrine of election, from which the eternal security doctrine originates. Three years later the first Baptist church to practice immersion was formed. For the first 30 years of Baptist history, this most characteristic practice of modern Baptists was unheard of!

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